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updated 1/18/2007 11:29:52 AM ET 2007-01-18T16:29:52

On January 14, 1952, TODAY made history when Dave Garroway and the TODAY show made its network debut — the first two-hour morning program of its kind. In September, 2000, the program did it again and expanded to three hours. And now, in the midst of an unprecedented 11-year run as the number-one morning news program, TODAY will once again make its mark on television history, and expand to four hours. The announcement was made today by NBC News President Steve Capus. The new hour will launch in September, 2007.

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"The success of the TODAY show has been remarkable throughout its history, and the program has never been in a better position than it is right now," said Capus. "This is a tribute to all the dedicated hard work of Matt, Meredith, Al, Ann and the entire behind-the-scenes team. You can't do this with a program that isn't a powerhouse — and that is exactly what we have at TODAY."

In the coming months, NBC News will have more announcements about anchors and correspondents who will be added to TODAY to accommodate the fourth hour.

"As the person who has to make decisions every day about what makes it into the show and what gets left on the cutting room floor, this is terrific news for me," said TODAY executive producer Jim Bell. "Our news division, and this program, is blessed with so many terrific anchors, correspondents and producers, and they bring us so much material. Now, there is simply more time for all of them, and I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity."

Timing of this expansion couldn't be more appropriate, as TODAY continues to experience ratings dominance that has extended into its 12th year of ratings wins every single week. And on the heels of an extraordinarily successful transition that brought co-anchor Meredith Vieira to the program in September, the program's leadership position remains untested. In fact, for the fourth quarter of 2006, TODAY's advantage over ABC's "Good Morning America" was greater than it was in the fourth quarter of 2005.

The results of the program's 2000 expansion, from a ratings standpoint, are significant. In its first sweep, in November 2000, TODAY's third hour improved local market delivery by 13 percent in household ratings and five percent in the W25-54 demographic. Currently, it averages more than 3.9 million viewers each day, retaining 82 percent of TODAY's 8:30 a.m. audience. The third hour tops ABC's "The View" by 27 percent in total viewers.

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